Press Statement

COVID Inspection Report - Our View

Firefighters praised for their response to the COVID pandemic

Last year Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) was asked to carry out national inspections by the Home Secretary that related to the challenges faced by the fire and rescue service during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Today the findings have been published and highlight the positive work which has been delivered by firefighters across the country –

The FRSA welcomes the HMICFRS report including the contents of individual service letters which confirm what we already knew, when the call came to step up and support the NHS, thousands of firefighters were willing to volunteer and provide the necessary help.

Clearly the level of support varied from service to service which was mainly due to two factors, the ask of the local NHS trusts and industrial relations arrangements in each fire service. The inspectorate’s report is highly critical of the Fire Brigades Union and the tripartite agreement, which they claim was too prescriptive and did not allow the flexibility for services to make their own decisions on how to deploy staff. From our experience we know this to be all too true, and the main reason why we entered into local agreements with fire services which provided the necessary flexibility to allow our members to volunteer safely.

The report also makes comment on the outdated national arrangements, stating that reform is needed to remove a rigid set of national arrangements that haven’t been reviewed for many years. This is an issue we have been campaigning on for many years, so we also welcome this comment.

Putting the national arrangement aside, the report reflects very well on the work firefighters undertook up and down the country, supporting communities in ways that extended far beyond their statutory duties, staff stepping up to take on a range of pandemic activities, including driving ambulances, and delivering essential items
to the most vulnerable and personal protective equipment (PPE) to those working
in healthcare.

While we remain in national lockdown and the pandemic shows no signs of abating, and we know that our members will continue to volunteer and support the NHS and help to protect and save lives, it’s what we do.

It is therefore imperative that we continue to lobby the government, requesting that it is now clearly time to start to act on the recommendations in this latest report, the State of Fire (2019) and the Adrian Thomas report (2016), all of which recommend reform of the national negotiating machinery.

Firefighters deserve better than the constraints that they were originally given through the tripartite agreement, irrespective of its good intentions. Action must be taken by the government as it is clear that the sector will not reform itself and we cannot allow for the UK Fire and Rescue Service in the future to become a bystander during a time of national crisis, slow off the blocks to help our emergency partners and the public.

Our members deserve better as has been shown by their actions over the past nine months.

The HMICFRS report provides a very good account of how fire and rescue services responded to the pandemic both individually and collectively. It highlights the fantastic work that our members undertook during the pandemic but also identifies the barriers that needed to be overcome to do so which was unnecessary and avoidable.

The question is will lessons be learned and action taken, only time will tell?

Tristan Ashby
Chief Executive Officer

Our offer to you

A new information leaflet is available encapsulating the key benefits of being a member of the FRSA. The document is available via our website and we would recommend that this is shared with your colleagues on station.